Sue Townsend, author of Adrian Mole books, dies aged 68

image copyrightBen McMillan
image captionSue Townsend achieved worldwide success with her books about the life of Adrian Mole

Novelist Sue Townsend, best known as the author of the successful Adrian Mole series, has died.

Townsend, 68, died at home on Thursday after a short illness.

The first of her comic series, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4, was published in 1982 and the eighth instalment, Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, was released in 2009.

Her other best-selling novels included The Queen and I.

'Incredibly sweet'

media captionStephen Mangan: Sue Townsend "a hero of mine"

Townsend, who was left blind after suffering from diabetes for many years, achieved worldwide success following the publication of the books about teenager Adrian Mole.

The series followed the main character from adolescence under Margaret Thatcher's government, to maturity in Tony Blair's Britain.

Townsend said that, in many respects, her hero mirrored her own experience.

In March 2013, she told the Oxford Literary Festival that publication of the next Adrian Mole book had been pushed back as a result of a stroke she had suffered.

She was diagnosed with diabetes in the 1980s and underwent a kidney transplant in 2009. She had the stroke in December 2012.

image captionStephen Mangan played Adrian Mole in a 2001 BBC adaptation of The Cappuccino Years, with Helen Baxendale as Pandora

Comedian and writer Danny Wallace is one of a number of those who have paid tribute to Townsend.

Wallace told the BBC: "If ever I saw that she was in a town close to me - and I'd never been to book readings or book signings before - but I always made sure I went to hers.

"She was incredibly sweet to her younger fans and I've got all these books at home that she had signed and she would say, 'To Daniel, from Sue Townsend aged 43 and three quarters' or '45 and a half'.

"So she really understood what people loved about Adrian Mole I think."

media captionWriter Bali Rai tells 5 live: "We've lost a national treasure"

Actor Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a 2001 television adaptation, told Radio 4's Today programme that Townsend took him "under her wing" during filming.

"There was something really special about Sue. She was a hero of mine when I read the books as an adolescent - I was pretty much the same age as Adrian - but when I met her I just fell in love with her really," he said.

"She was warm, she was funny, she was self-deprecating. She was incredibly encouraging.

"It was the first time I'd ever played a lead part in a series and, however confident I must have tried to appear, she instinctively knew how difficult it was for me to come and lead a company with people like Alison Steadman and Zoe Wanamaker and Helen Baxendale. I'll miss her a lot."

Harry Potter author JK Rowling paid tribute on Twitter, writing "So sad to hear about Sue Townsend. She gave me so many laughs."

She added: "#AdrianMoleWillLiveForever."

image copyrightRex / Fremantle Media Ltd
image captionGian Sammarco played Adrian Mole in the 1987 TV adaptation

David Walliams also paid tribute on the social networking site, calling Townsend "a comedy genius" and "lovely lady" who wrote "some of the funniest books of all time".

Crime writer Ian Rankin described her death as "a real loss".

Writer Caitlin Moran tweeted that Townsend was "one of the funniest women who ever lived."

Freedom of Leicester

Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946, and set her most famous work in her home city.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4, was followed by The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole in 1984.

The two books made her the best-selling novelist of the 1980s and they were followed by others in the Mole series, including The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole.

Several of her books were adapted for the stage, while the Mole series was adapted for radio, television and theatre.

Townsend was awarded an honorary Masters of Arts from Leicester University and in 2008 was made a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of the university.

She was also an Honorary Doctor of Letters at Loughborough University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

In 2009 Townsend was given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester.

She said at the time: "I have been a citizen of Leicester for over 62 years, most of my family and friends live here, so I was delighted when I was nominated to receive the freedom of the city."

She leaves her husband and four children.

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